The Use of Information Theory in Biology: Lessons from Social Insects

Biological Theory 1 (3):317-330 (2006)
In this paper, I discuss how information theory has been used in the study of animal communication, as well as how these uses are justified. Biologists justify their use of Shannon’s information measures by the work they do in allowing for comparisons between different organisms and because they measure a quantity that is purported to be important for natural selection. I argue that there are problems with both sorts of justification. To make these difficulties clear, I focus on the use of Shannon’s information measures to quantify the amount of information transmitted by the fire ant’s odor trail and the honeybee’s waggle dance. Both of these systems are relatively simple and well understood, and the application of Shannon’s information measure to these systems initially seemed very promising and relatively straightforward. They are therefore particularly suitable for revealing the benefits and difficulties of applying Shannon’s information measures to biological systems in general, and animal communication systems in particular
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1162/biot.2006.1.3.317
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history
Request removal from index
Download options
Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 26,641
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA
Sociobiology: The New Synthesis.Edward O. Wilson - 2000 - Journal of the History of Biology 33 (3):577-584.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA
On the 'Transmission Sense of Information'.Ulrich E. Stegmann - 2013 - Biology and Philosophy 28 (1):141-144.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles
The Long Reach of Philosophy of Biology.Matt Gers - 2011 - Biology and Philosophy 26 (3):439-447.
The Transmission Sense of Information.Carl T. Bergstrom & Martin Rosvall - 2011 - Biology and Philosophy 26 (2):159-176.
From Symbolism to Information? – Decoding the Gene Code.Frode Kjosavik - 2007 - Biology and Philosophy 22 (3):333-349.
Biology Without Information.Giovanni Boniolo - 2003 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 25 (2):255-273.
Lessons From Biology for Philosophy of the Human Sciences.Alex Rosenberg - 2005 - Philosophy of the Social Sciences 35 (1):3-19.

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

38 ( #133,963 of 2,158,133 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

4 ( #87,457 of 2,158,133 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.

Other forums